Dive boats often sway the choice of which dive company I go fun diving with. If you haven’t done much boat diving before, and would like to know more, then join me in taking a closer look at some things you should consider.
When choosing a dive center at a new destination, I always look at their dive boats. Over the years, I have come up with a personal checklist that I run through. It is important that the dive boat is well equipped and safely operated. The key factors I look at are:
- Safety equipment
- Is it the right style of boat for the type of diving and the environment?
- General boat facilities
- What ability level are the other divers, and how many staff are there?
For me, there is not one perfect style of dive boat. Different types of diving or sea conditions will require the dive boat to have certain features suitable to that function. For example, if I am wreck diving in the UK (think cold water and large swell) I prefer diving from a larger boat, with a lift on the back, for ease of exit and entry. Out in the Caribbean, I am quite happy on a smaller speed boat that will get me to the sites fast, and be able to follow me along on a drift dive. Here’s some questions that I like to know the answers to before booking on a dive:
Dive Boat Safety
- Does the boat have all the required diving and boating safety equipment on board?
- Is it regularly checked and maintained? How do they record this?
- Does the company meet local boating regulations and standards (or even exceed them?)
- In the boat briefing are you told where the emergency equipment is, and who is trained to operate it? Do they inform you of the emergency procedures?
- Does the boat carry spares, and are the staff trained to deal with basic repair issues?
- Is there always a dive boat driver on board?
Style of Diving and Environment
- Do they use the right style of dive boat for the conditions you are diving in?
- What are the entry and exit techniques, and are you physically able to complete them safely in the conditions?
- What are the general dive procedures (drift dive with the boat following along or fixed descent/ascent line)?
- If an emergency arose would the boat be able to respond to you quickly?
Facilities on a Dive Boat
- Is the boat well maintained with clearly designated areas?
- Do photographers have separate camera tables and rinse tanks?
- Are there showers or a head (for long boat trips)?
- Does the company provide any refreshments or snacks?
- Is there mask wash and fresh water for rinsing masks?
- Is there ample space for all the divers to kit up/sit down?
- Is there adequate shelter for everyone (sun covers or rain/wind protection)?
Diver Ability and Staff Requirements
- How many trained staff members accompany each boat trip?
- How many divers does each divemaster have in a group?
- Are there mixed experience levels, or are the divers split into experience based groups?
- What is the maximum number of divers on the boat?
- Is there a separate group for photographers?
Sounds like a lot of questions, right?! However, I consider all of them to be important as I want to have a SAFE and FUN dive with no stress or worry. Would you add anything to this list? Do you prefer using a certain type of dive boat?